It’s no joke

From Paul Johnson’s wonderful Humourists: From Hogarth to Noël Coward. Having now flown from Budapest to London, where I finished the book on the flight, I find it both eerie and appropriate that this is how Johnson’s book ends.

In an attempt to put down ‘racism,’ the concept of ‘hate terms’ was introduced into English law for the first time. This makes many words and expressions unlawful, and punishable by fines and imprisonment. It is the most comprehensive system of censorship since the days of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, and means there are more restrictions on freedom of expression in England than at any other time since Hogarth’s days.

It is, of course, fatal to humour, if enforced and persisted in. For one vital quality of humour is inequality, and striking visual, aural, and physical differences. Differences in sex, age, colour, race, religion, physical ability, and strength lie at the source of the majority of jokes since the beginning of human self-consciousness. And all jokes are likely to provoke discomfort if not positive misery among those laughed at. Hence any joke is liable to fall foul of those laws. The future for humourists thus looks bleak, at the time I write this [2010]. The ordinary people like jokes, often crude ones, as George Orwell pointed out in his perceptive essay on rude seaside picture postcards. But are ordinary people, as opposed to minor officials, in charge any more? Democracy doesn’t really seem to work, and people are insufficiently dismayed at its impotence. Noël Coward made the point more than half a century ago:

There are bad times just around the corner,
We can all look forward to despair.
It’s as clear as crystal
From Birmingham to Bristol
That we can’t save democracy
And we don’t much care.

We visited The House of Terror on our last full day in Budapest, which is a memorial museum about Nazis and Comms by people who know quite a bit about it first hand. It is sickening to find that the principles that once made England great are rapidly disappearing, and most truly don’t much care among “officials”, and it’s no longer just the minor ones.

And for more on the same, there is this today from Steve Hayward at Powerline: Liberals and the Death of Comedy. It’s about whether Monty Python could be produced by the BBC today. I won’t tell you his conclusion so you will have to read it yourself.

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15 Responses to It’s no joke

  1. JohnL

    Today we do not need humorists or jokes, we have politicians.

  2. stackja

    Many died for the weak to inherit the earth. Now what?

  3. mh

    Conservative US radio talk show host Michael Savage has been banned from the UK since 2009.

    But the UK government rolls out the red carpet to welcome back British jihadis who fought for ISIS.

  4. John Constantine

    It will be so much better organised when humorists can memorise the approved jokes from the approved joke manual, and deliver them in a style approved by committee.

    And the audience responds with the statutory period of regulated strength.

    Like on facefilth, failure to establish a record of compliance will be evidence of unsound thoughtcrimes.

    No joke Comrades.

    (As their left always put it sniffily, “That’s Not Funny”.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    The Left is amazingly sanctimonious.
    A comedian dares not mock any Lefty cause or protected group.
    If they do they get the brown shirts of the AHRC come down upon them.
    What is comedy if not offensive to someone?
    And giving offence is now illegal under s18c.
    So comedy has defaulted to potty-mouthed abuse of the Right.
    Because the Right is the last tolerant group.
    Christians especially are a target because we are taught to turn the other cheek.
    Consequently comedy in the new millennium is desperately unfunny.
    Box office receipts have been dire as people vote with their feet.

  6. nemkat

    Monty Python spent their time showing contempt for the England of their day, they’re the sort of people who are to blame for the Authoritarian disaster of the present.

  7. jupes

    It’s about whether Monty Python could be produced by the BBC today.

    The Life of Brian is one of the best movies of all time.

    Those two scenes featured in the link, four decades old, nail the insane sensibilities of our times. Even if they were allowed to be made today, they wouldn’t be funny because satire is now “pining for the fjords”.

  8. nerblnob

    People’s front of Judea etc mocked leftwing student politics in a way that you wouldn’t even see now.

    Even the leftists laughed in those days.
    How wretched we’ve become.

  9. Rafe Champion

    Steve did you get to Memento Park on the outskirts of Budapest. That is where they relegated the ghastly Stalinist statues that the regime put up around the city before the fall of the wall. There is a Trabant on display that you can sit in as well!

  10. mh

    Nigel Farage Blasts UK Officials For Banning Him Meeting Trump

    “Who on earth is some official in 10 Downing Street to tell the US President who he should and shouldn’t meet? I’m sorry to say, but it paints my government, ahead of this visit, in a very bad light.”

    https://newswars.com/farage-blasts-uk-officials-for-banning-him-meeting-trump

  11. There are many comedians in the US that will no longer do performances in US universities etc because comedy is effectively banned.

    Anyway, this was funny.

  12. struth

    Monty Python spent their time showing contempt for the England of their day, they’re the sort of people who are to blame for the Authoritarian disaster of the present.

    75% agree with that.
    As they’ve got older, they’ve learned their lessons, and I think some like John Cleese are dam right embarrassed about it and tries to make amends to this day.

    But they were nowhere near the level of radical hatred of the west as we see in the so called comedians publically funded these days.

  13. mh
    #2757461, posted on July 7, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    Nigel Farage Blasts UK Officials For Banning Him Meeting Trump

    “Who on earth is some official in 10 Downing Street to tell the US President who he should and shouldn’t meet? I’m sorry to say, but it paints my government, ahead of this visit, in a very bad light.”

    My advice to Donald Trump (his advisors will disagree).
    Invite Nigel to DC on a one way ticket. Then give him a lift back to the UK on Air Force One.
    Watch heads explode when Trump and Nigel walk out of the plane together.

  14. Louis Hissink

    The puritans are back and its déjà vu Cromwell.

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